The Ikalto Monastery Complex is located approximately twelve kilometres from the city of Telavi, Kakheti region. This monastery complex played a significant role in the development of medieval Georgia.
Ikalto was considered a city in its own right from the 4th century, and it was here that one of the Syrian holy fathers, Zenoni, founded his monastery in the 6th century. Over time, a full monastery complex sprang up, remaining an important Christian site till today.
The Trinity, Transfiguration, and All Saints’ Church are located within the monastery. The oldest is the 6th-century Trinity Church, although it has changed over the years due to restoration efforts. The Transfiguration Church was built in the 8th-9th centuries, and the construction date of the All Saints’ Church goes back to the 12th-13th centuries.
The monastery complex also contained a building for scientific meetings and an academy, but these are completely in ruins today. The academy building, built in the 8th-9th centuries, was an important educational institution of medieval Georgia. It was founded in the 11th-12th centuries by the brilliant theologian and philosopher Arsen Ikaltoeli.
The Ikalto Academy offered instruction in a number of areas, including theology, rhetoric, astronomy, philosophy, geography, geometry, hymn singing, metalworking, ceramics, and viticulture.
It is known that the great Georgian poet, Shota Rustaveli, received his education there.
Archaeological excavations have shown that there were workshops, a wine cellar, a smithy, and agricultural buildings around the academy as well. Even today, you will be able to see the largest stone wine-press preserved in Georgia there.
Sadly, in 1616, the army of Shah Abbas I burned the Ikalto Academy to the ground, and in 1921, the communist regime closed Ikalto Monastery as part of their nationwide forbiddance of religious services.
In 1991, following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, services resumed at the Trinity Church and the Church of the Holy Spirit in Ikalto Monastery, and remain to this day.